Did I really watch a Spooky Mormon Hell Dream?

I grew up consuming every form of entertainment that came my way – from books to songs to dancing; and the wonderful combination of all three is a musical. The way storytellers come together to express and convey meanings through lyrics, musical composition, movement and, of course, acting amazes me. Any of my family members could easily tell you I was (and debatably still am) a drama queen, so it was no surprise that I would be passionate about acting and the theatre. I took dance and drama lessons for my entire childhood right into my teenage years, and while being passionate about expressing myself, I became deeply passionate about being an audience member for others doing the same.

I have had the pleasure of attending various musicals and ballet productions over the years, with the last production I went to being the most different and outrageous one yet. I did not know what to anticipate and I had no expectations when I walked into the Sydney Lyric Theatre on an early-February evening to see The Book of Mormon. I had heard many mixed reviews and thought it was time to see it for myself. I was ready experience something rather different to the musicals I had previously experienced and loved (Les Misérables, Wicked, Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast, Legally Blonde… heck, even High School Musical Live On Stage in 2008).

The Book of Mormon was originally a 2011 Broadway Production created by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the men behind the American comedy cartoon series, South Park. Stone and Parker teamed up with Robert Lopez, the well-renowned songwriter and composer, to bring their comedic vision to life through songs. The musical has since been produced all around the world, including Australia. The Book of Mormon follows young Mormon Elders on their missionary trip to Uganda, where they encounter many unexpected obstacles while trying to convert the local people from their hasa diga eebowai attitude to the Mormon faith.

The production was truly fantastic and unlike anything I had ever seen before. There is something so wholesome and joyful about sitting in a dark theatre, surrounded by other people (who have managed to stay and endure the crass humour instead of walking out…), laughing along to the same lines and experiencing the magic of the theatre together. The music was original, upbeat, and an absolute spoof of Americans and Mormonism. It was not for the lighthearted though and I can understand how some audience members would have been deeply offended by literally everything in the musical.

Actual footage of people who did not enjoy the musical who thought everybody else were probably Satan-worshippers for laughing and enjoying something so out there.

I believe the theatre is powerful because it has the capability to bring together audience members from all walks of life into the one room to be entertained for a few hours. Being an audience member at the theatre is like being a part of something big and energetic. We are very much used to constantly commentating on aspects of our lives, and sharing things immediately with one another, so being in a theatre with a ‘no technology policy’ is really refreshing. It allows audiences to be fully present and actively participate in the consumption of the production without external influences and distractions.

My experience connects to the themes discussed in last Thursday’s lecture, because the way we consume media has changed dramatically and people are now more likely to be engaging with materials alone, in their bedroom, rather than outside in the real world with other people. The disbursement of audiences has created a new experience for not only those consuming, but also those creating. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with being cosy at home, utilising the convenience of streaming services, nothing beats getting dressed up and going out to the theatre to experience some wonderful, live-action masterpieces. Especially seeing the actors face at the end of the show, so satisfied and pleased with themselves that they have successfully spent another couple of hours entertaining a live audience. No matter how many people choose to consume media individually, there will always be a need for the theatre and for its stalls to be filled with people ready to be delighted by the show.

Let me know in the comments if you saw The Book of Mormon, and if you did I would love to know what you thought about it.

By Maddy Findlay.